He fought a good fight of faith, exhibiting, throughout his lifetime, a staunch belief in the equality of all men, irrespective of race, colour or gender. He was Nelson Rolihlalha Mandela, South Africa’s first black President and legendary freedom fighter. Mandela frenetically and fearlessly bestrode the narrow walls of injustice, where men were separated according to ethnic and racial orientations, and where the autochthonous and aboriginal inhabitants of the land were despised and classed as second class never-do-wells.
But Mandela defied the sordid reign of apartheid at the time and rather than commit himself to servitude and white patronage, which was the norm among the elite in pre-1960s South Africa, he put his freedom on the line and leading a radical group of the African National Congress (ANC), they fought the apartheid regime to a standstill, protesting, among other vicious acts of the white minority rule, the Sharpeville Shooting of unarmed and innocent women and children, as well as the everyday social exclusion and segregation that were rife.
Nelson Mandela then began a seemingly endless journey into imprisonment. After surviving earlier incarcerations, including a previous five-year jail term, the social justice activist found himself spending twenty-seven solitary years in Robben Island, South Africa’s worst prison. It was no easy walk to freedom, but after his release in 1990 by a more liberalized regime under Frederick de Clerk, Mandela resumed from where he stopped, taking his people from the political wilderness and the shackles of racist rule to social and political liberation in 1992. In a first ever multiracial election, Mandela emerged as President.
The social backgrounds of Nelson Mandela are a life teacher for every African and indeed human being. From a humble beginning in 1918when he was born, he led an exemplary life with a commitment to humanity. Like Mahatma Ghandi, he believed the essence of living was to make all men happy. Like Martin Luther King Junior, Mandela was sold out to the cause of inclusive governance; and like Dr. David Oyedepo, Mandela was committed to restoring the dignity of the black man. This is in tandem with what Covenant University stands for. If Mandela were to live a little more, he would probably have come to realize that Covenant University exudes and epitomizes the philosophy and his vision of the black man. We stand for the fact that “It doesn’t have to be white to be right” neither does it have to be black to go wrong. That is why we celebrate Nelson Mandela. He is our hero!
We are not surprised that he was hated by just few, loved by many, respected by majority, and venerated by all. Madiba, as he is fondly called, is well deserved. Madiba is the nickname of his Xhosa ethnic group, and being referred to as Madiba simply means he was father of a nation. He is the only man to have lived with over 250 titles and awards. No wonder, Barack Obama said of him: “We can never have another like him Mandela’s demise pains many, even though he has departed at a ripe age.”
The Covenant University community, from the Chancellor, Management, Staff and Students wish to celebrate this great African and extend our commiserations not only to his immediate family, but also to all those who saw him as Madiba.